All businesses are driven by records. Even in today's electronic society businesses generate mountains of critical documents everyday. Invoices, client lists, calendars, contracts, files, medical records, and innumerable other records are generated every day.
Stop and ask yourself what happens if your business lost those documents today.
Valuable papers business insurance coverage provides coverage to your business in case of a loss of vital records. Over the years policy language has evolved to include a number of different types of records. Generally, the policy will cover "written, printed, or otherwise inscribed documents and records, including books, maps, films, drawings, abstracts, deeds, mortgages, and manuscripts." But, read the policy coverage carefully. The policy language typically "does not mean "money" or "securities," converted data,programs or instructions used in your data processing operations, including the materials on which the data is recorded."
The coverage is often included as a part of property insurance or as part of a small business owner policy. For example, Safeco's small business owner policy includes valuable papers coverage up to $25,000.
It is important to realize what the coverage actually entails and, even more critical, to analyze your business to determine what it would cost to replace records.
The coverage pays for the loss of vital papers and the cost to replace the records up to the limit of the insurance and after application of any deductible. For example, the insurer will pay to have waterlogged papers dried and reproduced (remember, fires are put out by water and the fire department does not stop to remove your book keeping records). The insurer may cover temporary storage or the cost of moving records to avoid a loss.
For some businesses, losing customer lists, some business records, and contracts, can mean the expense and trouble of having to recreate those documents, but is relatively easy and a low level risk and loss. Larger businesses and especially professionals (lawyers, accountants, doctors) are in an entirely separate category and the cost of replacement of documents is much higher. Consider, in analyzing your business and potential risk, what it would actually cost to reproduce your critical business records. Would you need to hire temporary personnel? How many hours of productivity would go into replacing the records? Would you need to obtain originals? Would original work need to be recreated (for example, home inspectors, surveyors, cartographers)?
Often when a business owner considers the actual cost related to the reproduction of records, the owner quickly realizes that their business insurance policy limits for valuable papers coverage is woefully inadequate.
Insurers (and your insurance professional)will often suggest higher coverages for valuable papers. The extra premium is often worth the cost and should be considered.
Finally, most policies will require records to be protected. You need to review your declarations pages and speak with your insurer to determine what is required. Some insurers may offer discounted coverage if there is a document retention and back up plan in place and followed. There are professional organizations that can assist your business in designing a records management policy to lower the risk (and your premiums). For example, ARMA International has been around since 1955 and its members consist of some of the top document retention and storage companies.